New Peer-to-Peer Toolkit Provides Support to Anyone Interested in Data Analysis Using R

February 18, 2021 by Mélina Lévesque

Statistics is like an abstract painting in an art gallery. You may be overwhelmed with its complexity at first. It comes down to learning the brush strokes and appreciating the endless works of art that a few initial splashes of paint can lead you to create. 


This is precisely the vision behind the Department of Statistical Sciences’ new Peer-to-Peer Toolkit. Like every great artist begins with their pallet of colours before creating potential masterpieces, the Peer-to-Peer Toolkit equips students with the fundamentals to expand their knowledge of R – a statistical programming language that makes it easy to analyze data with just a few lines of code.


Interactive Modules & Resources Let Students Go at Their Own Pace


The Peer-to-Peer toolkit offers students interested in data analysis with a collection of resources using R. The versatile statistical programming language allows anyone to create complex and creative collections of code. While R is useful once you get the hang of it, it can certainly be challenging for people who are new to programming to learn the syntax and know how to use the rich library of available functions. 


“What we’ve put together is a series of interactive modules where students can go through each of these functions," says Rohan Alexander, co-developer of the toolkit. 


The Faculty of Arts & Science's pedagogical innovation and experimentation fund (PIE) has allowed DoSS undergraduates to develop an applied statistics toolkit. 


“We’re grateful for the support of Radu Craiu, our department chair, and Associate Chair for Undergraduate Programs Bethany White for their support of the program," says Alexander. 


Under Rohan Alexander and Samantha-Jo Caetano's guidance, the initiative is led by a team of seven DoSS undergraduates and two PhD candidates who have put together a series of interactive modules, as well as written and visual learning resources on how to use R. 


From learning how to install R on your computer to the basics of GitHub, undergraduate students have created a series of ten interactive online modules. Students can go at their own pace and earn badges for completed modules and material covered.  


Peer-to-Peer Learning Boosts Confidence & Independence 


The toolkit’s peer-to-peer learning approach to R is a way for undergraduates to solidify their knowledge and understanding by engaging with material made by students for students. The collaborative approach to the toolkit allows for students to access various styles of teaching and learning that don’t require real-time interaction.


“It’s different when you hear things from a professor versus when you hear things from someone at your own level” says Samantha-Jo Caetano, “Having that kind of student-to-student learning is something that we’re hoping will be beneficial.” 


The toolkit will provide students with extra support to excel in their statistics classes. Whether it’s working through modules individually or reviewing content after a class: the toolkit’s materials are a reference or refresher that students can add to their data analysis tool belt. 


"The toolkit allows for more flexibility for lifestyle changes. You can learn as much or as little about it as you'd like to," says Caetano. 


Fostering Diversity and Inclusion Through Open Access


Fostering diversity and inclusion both in and outside of the department is a major motivation behind the creation of the toolkit. While R is an integral part of the department’s curriculum, access to the toolkit is open and modules are designed to provide students from a range of disciplines with a taste of statistical programming. After all, you don’t have to be a statistics student to be a statistics enthusiast. 


“R is increasingly being taught in a whole range of different hard and social sciences, such as political science, sociology, economics, etc. Hopefully, all of these other different departments and faculties will come together and contribute their own material to our toolkit," said Rohan Alexander.  


Whether you are a political science student looking for an introduction to R for conducting data analysis or a statistics student in need of reviewing some puzzling material, the toolkit provides students with the fundamental puzzle pieces of data analysis. 


On February 18, join us for our toolkit launch event. We welcome students to enrich their skills and engage their interests in a versatile field where creativity knows no bounds.